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What do Americans Want from Their National Parks?


    What a week.     
    There's been the aftermath of Paul Hoffman's attempts to rewrite the National Park Service's management policies to allow just about anything to go on in our national parks, the president's invitation-only Cooperative Conservation Conference in St. Louis that apparently was manipulated by the administration, and then the wallop of Katrina that devastated New Orleans, Biloxi and many more Gulf State communities, not too mention a few national parks.
    So where do we stand? Well, it's satisfying to see that the federal government FINALLY is getting around to addressing the hardships that the hurricane exacted upon the Gulf States. Now let's hope the progress is tangible and unending. Be sure to read Steve Bosak's comments attached to my piece on Katrina's impact on the parks. He's provided some helpful links that we should all check out.
     As for the overall health of our national parks, I'm confident they'll survive Hoffman's questionable efforts, as well as the Cooperative Conservation Conference. But it's essential that park advocates keep the pressure on the Bush administration and NOT let it open up parks to more snowmobiles, more Jet Skis, more overflights, and more commercialization.

    This is Cooperative Conservation?

    My thanks to Jon Christensen for keeping us all abreast of the Cooperative Conservation Conference. He was the proverbial "fly on the wall" and came away with some great insights. One particularly disturbing insight was that President Bush, in his videotaped welcome to the conferees, said he hoped to make our national parks "more accessible and inviting."
    That statement makes me wonder how much time the president has actually spent in a national park enjoying the uncut forests, the peace and quiet, the unfettered wildlife that is roaming and interacting as it was always intended to. Perhaps a little down time in Yosemite's Tuolumne Meadows, kicking stones along Rialto Beach in Olympic, or pedaling through the thick forests of Acadia would do the president some good. You know, allow him a little time for introspection and appreciation and understanding of just why our national parks exist and what they mean to our country. Now THAT would be a good vacation for the president. Get him outa Crawford!
    Fortunately, newspapers from around the country are weighing in on Paul Hoffman's tinkerings with the management policies. In addition to blasts by the New York Times and L.A. Times, I've seen pro-park pieces from Maine, Nevada, Philadelphia, North Carolina and Sacramento, and that's just a small cross-section.
    Not ONE
has embraced Hoffman's suggestions. In fact, in light of a Park Service comment that, while the agency will not adopt Hoffman's proposals it still will produce a "more modest rewrite," the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that, "There's no need to loosen rules at all. The great national parks -- especially vast preserves such as Yellowstone -- hardly suffer from too much conservation. The bigger danger is that they might get loved to death. Even if, as hoped, cooler heads prevail, it's worrisome that the political appointee directly in charge of national parks would propose opening them to harder use and more business exploitation."    
    You can read the full editorial at the Philly Inquirer.

     Send a Message or Two to Washington

    The best editorial I've seen so far comes from the Sacramento Bee, which not only castigates Hoffman for his efforts, but proposes a cause of action for park advocates. In its editorial, which ran Sept. 1, the Bee says bluntly that "America's national parks are bleeding from a thousand cuts. Instead of doing triage, the Bush administration has dispatched a medic who specializes in leeches and quackery."
    During his days working for the Cody, Wyoming, Chamber of Commerce, Hoffman, the newspaper points out, said the plan to return wolves to Yellowstone would be "the equivalent of detonating a nuclear bomb." Good thing we survived that blast, eh?
    In concluding its editorial, the Bee proposed a pretty interesting and thoughtful suggestion for park advocates: contact Hoffman's boss, Craig Manson, who is the Interior Department's assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, and tell him you strongly disagree with Hoffman's suggestions. You can reach Manson at 202-208-5347, or email him directly at [email protected]. Oh yeah, don't forget to copy in Hoffman ([email protected]).
    Now, let's hope for a little calmness in the week ahead.


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